Two Tourist Trains

Two Tourist Trains

When I got up on Thursday February 28th at 7:00 am, I checked on the eastbound Amtrak Southwest Chief and saw it was running several hours late and would arrive in Flagstaff around 8:30 am. I quickly cleaned up, dressed and loaded my gear in the Explorer before heading to the passenger depot. I pulled in on the south side of the main tracks a block east of the depot. As soon as I got out a westbound intermodal came out of the fog.

There were a fair number of passengers on the platform when Amtrak Train Four pulled in at 8:32 am with 3 P42’s up front.

After about ten minutes the engineer got a highball. I started to pan the lead unit when I was surprised by a westbound intermodal that had snuck up behind me. I barely got off a shot as the two trains met.

With my view of Amtrak’s departure blocked, I decided to head west for more photos of this intermodal with all Norfolk Southern power. With the steep westbound grade from here I easily beat the train to a spot on the shoulder of I40 a few miles west of Flagstaff where I had more sunlight.

With this train in the bag, I headed on west myself to Williams to check out the Grand Canyon Railway. I stopped at the depot in town first where the train led by two ex-Amtrak F40’s would depart from later on for the south rim of the Grand Canyon about 60 miles to the north.

Going north out of Williams on Highway 64 except for a short stretch a few minutes out of town, the rest of the line to the Grand Canyon is out in the open country and does not parallel any major roads. I drove about two miles north of Red Lake where the track and the highway separate at railroad milepost eight and found a good spot to pull off the road and launch the drone. I listened on the radio as the train left the depot at 9:30 am and started calling every milepost as they passed it. I took off when the train was three miles away and took these two photos first looking south and then north.

The train moves at a good clip and without having done advance research, I did not want to try to overtake it again since the track does not parallel the two-lane main highway. As the lighting was not perfect this day I decided I had enough BNSF photos for now.

Instead I decided to go check out another tourist operation that I had nver visited, the Verde Canyon Railroad in Clarkdale. The Verde Canyon Railroad operates over the last twenty miles of an ex-Santa Fe branch line owned by Arizona Eastern from Clarkdale to Drake where they interchange with the BNSF Phoenix Sub.

I chose to take the fastest route by going back east on I40 and then south out of Flagstaff on I17. It took me around 90 minutes to drive from this last photo location to the Verde Canyon’s station in Clarksdale. I looked around the depot gift shop and then took a few photos of the train as I looked for a good photo location.

Unfortunately right after leaving the station the train powered by two ex-Alaska FP7’s enters a canyon area with no easy access. Using the drone again was a consideration, but here I would have to get permission to launch from crowded private property and I noticed the crew was leaving the lead unit’s nose door open for their comfort in the summer heat which made any photo less desirable. I decided to just photograph the train’s 1:00 pm departure from ground level and do more research for a future visit.

Before leaving Clarksdale, I drove by the entrance to the roundhouse for the Arizona Eastern Railroad.

With even less of an opportunity to chase this train than the Grand Canyon’s earlier, I drove back to Flagstaff in a heavy rain. Once I got there I stopped by CP East Flagstaff to finish up the day on the Southern Transcon. In a few minutes a westbound intermodal train rolled through the interlocking.

The second unit was an older C44-9 still in original warbonnet paint.

A few minutes later a second westbound came by close on the heels of the first one.

This time around the third unit was an older warbonnet running out its last miles.

Now it was back to the hotel for a good dinner and an evening of processing photos.

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